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Technology allows organisations to optimise their operations like never before through advances in data analytics, artificial intelligence and automation. We’re all aware of the rapid emergence of generative AI and how its impacting the way we work and will result in significant increases in productivity in the future. While there are some heavy duty tools on the market for robotic process automation (RPA), there are also some more everyday tools across different functions, which have various levels of automation to help improve productivity and efficiency. Automation is used in every operational function today. See below, for some of the most common applications.

1. Project management: In managing projects, automation can help streamline project management processes by automating tasks such as project tracking, task assignment, and reporting. For example, tools like Asana, Jira or Trello can automate task reminders, automate rules and triggers plus notifications to keep projects on track.

2. People management: Particularly for larger organisations, automation is critical to help HR departments manage employee data, onboarding, and performance evaluations more efficiently. Tools like BambooHR can automate employee data management and applicant tracking, while platforms like Culture Amp can automate employee feedback surveys and performance evaluations.

3. Process management: From workflow design to SOP creation, automation can help organisations streamline and optimise their business processes. Tools like Nintex Workflow Automation can automate manual workflows, while platforms like Process Street can automate process documentation and standardisation.

4. Customer management: Automation can help organisations drive customer engagement and support. Tools like Intercom can automate customer service chats on your company website, while CRM platforms like Salesforce can automate customer data management and lead nurturing.

5. Sales management: There are many sales automation tools which can help sales teams optimise their lead generation and conversion processes. For example, tools like HubSpot can automate lead scoring and email campaigns, while platforms like SalesLoft can automate sales cadences and prospecting.

6. Workflow integration across platforms: If you’re wondering how your customer data is available on 2 independent 3rd party web applications, without a custom built in-house application, then it’s most likely because your team is using Zapier - a cloud-based automation tool that connects different web applications to automate workflows, including email, CRM, project management, and social media. The importance of integration across independent applications and platforms will become even more important in the future.

7. Financial management: In financial reporting and payroll, automation can help organisations manage financial processes more efficiently. Tools like QuickBooks online can automate bookkeeping and invoicing, while platforms like Adaptive Insights can automate budgeting and forecasting.

8. Social media management: With companies being omnipresent on Social Media, automation can help organisations manage their social media presence and engage with followers more effectively. Tools like Hootsuite can automate social media scheduling and posting, while platforms like Sprout Social can automate social listening and analytics.

9. Metrics & reporting: In a world of data, automation helps organisations measure, track and analyse metrics more efficiently. For example, tools like InsightSquared can automate sales reporting and forecasting, while platforms like Microsoft PowerBI and Tableau can automate data visualisation and analysis.

So where are you automating today and where are the opportunities?

Envisago Process Optimisation
How to optimise a process in 10 steps.

Top athletes know that winning is in the margins, that's it's the small incremental gains that separate the leaders from the pack. And it's their ability to continue to find those fine distinctions that keep them at the top of their game. It's the same with high performing organisations. They find ways to continually improve and refine their product, service or delivery to get the best out of their resources, be it people, time or money. So if you're looking to join the League of Leaders, whether you're a SaaS start up or in marketing operations for a global brand, follow these 10 steps to optimise for success.

1. Define the process: Yes, seems obvious, but you need to start by defining the process that needs to be optimised and remind yourself of the goals or desired outcomes of the process. This also includes identifying the steps involved in the process, and who is responsible for each step.

2. Identify the bottlenecks: Secondly, identify the areas of the process where there are delays, inefficiencies, or errors. These bottlenecks are the areas that need the most attention in order to improve the overall efficiency of the process.

3. Analyse the data: Collect and analyse data on the process, including the time it takes to complete each step, the resources required, and any other relevant metrics. Think cycle time (the targeted window of time the process should take) and on-time (the % of time the process hits this window). Make sure you can source as much data as possible to give you insight on the performance of the process. This will help identify areas for improvement and set goals for optimisation.

4. Map the process: Create a visual map of the process, including all the steps and the flow of information, and resources. There are some great diagramming tools out there including Microsoft Visio or Lucid Charts. This will help identify areas of redundancy, inefficiency, or confusion.

5. Simplify the process: Always be looking for simplification. Look for ways to simplify the process, such as reducing the number of steps, combining tasks, or eliminating unnecessary paperwork, handoffs or approvals.

6. Automate where possible: This is critical and where you can see the greatest benefit. Automate repetitive or time-consuming tasks wherever possible, using tools such as software, robots, or other automation technologies.

7. Standardise procedures: Establish standard procedures and guidelines for each step of the process, ensuring that everyone follows the same process and that it is consistently applied. If there is too much variation in how team members are executing the process, this can add a lot of wastage to the process. Work with high performers and see how their process can be followed by the rest of the team.

8. Measure progress: Establish metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the progress of the optimisation process. This will help track improvements and identify areas that need further attention. Measure speed, measure quality and measure cost.

9. Continuously improve: Continuously review and improve the process, based on feedback from stakeholders, changes in technology, or shifts in the business environment. This will help ensure that the process remains efficient and effective over time.

10. Train staff: Train staff on the new process and provide ongoing support and feedback to ensure that they understand and follow the new procedures. This will help ensure that the new process is adopted and sustained over time.

7 tips for how to use systems thinking to drive improvements in your operation.

Systems Thinking
Systems Thinking

Yes, Systems are everywhere. From the planetary system to our climate system to the human system. If you know the system and its interdependent parts, then you can analyse the impact of each component or part of the system on the whole to see how you can improve performance. At Envisago, we take a holistic, systems view of your operation, identifying 7 critical component parts of your operation that are necessary for success; From your 'Big Why' to the results you achieve. Below are 7 ways you can use a 'systems thinking' approach to drive improvements in your operation.

Tip #1 - Map the end to end customer journey

Just like it says on the tin, in order to understand any gaps or problems in the customer journey, you need to map out all the interactions with a prospect from when they first hear about your product or service to the point of renewal or churn. By understanding how each touchpoint interacts with the others, you can identify areas where improvements can be made to increase customer acquisition, satisfaction and retention.

Tip #2 - Analyse Feedback Loops

In any company, many different feedback loops exist, from user feedback to product development to customer support. A systems thinking approach can help identify how these feedback loops interact with each other, and how changes in one area may affect the others. By analysing and optimising these feedback loops, you can improve product and service offerings.

"Systems thinking is a discipline for seeing wholes, recognising patterns, and understanding interrelationships, rather than isolated parts." - Peter Senge, author of "The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation".

Tip #3 - Identify Bottlenecks

Systems thinking can help identify bottlenecks in operations, whether in the product development process or in customer support. By identifying these bottlenecks, you can optimise your operations and improve overall efficiency.

Tip #4 - Optimise Resource Allocation

A systems thinking approach can help identify areas where resources are being underutilised or overutilised. For example, in a SaaS company, by identifying a particular feature that users frequently request, they can invest resources in developing that feature to increase user satisfaction and retention. By reallocating resources to areas that need them most, you can improve overall performance.

Tip #5 - Foster Collaboration

It's very common, even if undesirable for different departments and teams to work in silos. Systems thinking can help break down these silos and foster collaboration between teams, leading to improved communication, knowledge sharing, and better decision-making.

Tip #6 - Embrace Continuous Improvement

A systems thinking approach encourages you to continually monitor and evaluate your operations, looking for opportunities for improvement. By embracing continuous improvement, you can stay ahead of the competition and adapt to changing market conditions.

Tip #7 - Align goals and incentives

Systems thinking can help you align goals and incentives across different departments and teams. By ensuring that everyone is working towards the same objectives, you can improve overall performance and achieve strategic goals.

So how can you incorporate system thinking into your operations today?

If you want to find out more about the Envisago Holistic Methodology, you can download our '7 Steps to Operational Excellence PDF here. Feel free to leave a comment below!

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